Graduation Is Ruined, But What Else Is New For Jewish Students?

Melanie Arougueti/Staff Writer

For many people, one of life’s biggest accomplishments is having finished their degree after four years of hard work. With this year’s spring graduation taking place tomorrow, many students are voicing their sentiments about not being able to attend their commencement ceremony in person. 

For many Jewish students however, this feeling is all too familiar. In the past, orthodox Jews have been unable to make their graduations when they were held on Saturdays, also known as the Sabbath—our day of rest. 

Now, it seems that no one can make it to their graduation. 

Although the commencement ceremony has been made into a video graduates will have access to online, many seniors still feel as though they aren’t receiving the full experience. But while universities are being accommodating to students now, they should have taken observant Jews into account in the past. 

In 2017, the University of Maryland held an alternative spring graduation for their Jewish students because the ceremony took place on a Saturday. According to the Times of Israel, the commencement was made possible by the university’s Director of Chabad, Rabbi Eli Backman, but if it wasn’t for his initiative those students wouldn’t have been able to celebrate their special day at all. 

Our own university has made the same mistakes in the past. FIU alum Nicolas Chami graduated in the Spring of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in international business and marketing. However, he was unable to attend his own graduation upon finding out that it would take place on a Saturday. 

“They were devastated as I’m the first graduate from a long lineage of a hardworking South American family,” said Chami on how his orthodox family reacted to the news.

This isn’t a unique case. I, too, will be the first graduate from an immigrant family who just so happen to be orthodox Jews. My graduation will take place in the Fall, but if the ceremony were to fall on Saturday (assuming the lockdown will be lifted by then), I would not be able to attend and neither would my family. It would hurt, since I wouldn’t be able to celebrate all the work I put in with the rest of my peers. Many other students at FIU face the same. 

Ossman Darwiche graduated from the University in 2019 with a bachelor of science in criminal justice. 

“I think the current situation brings us all down a notch or two, humbles everyone—Jewish students and students from all other communities—to remember just how human we all are.” Darwiche said. 

Fortunately, Darwiche was able to attend his graduation, since it was held on a Tuesday. But during his time at the University as a fellow PantherNOW writer and the vice president of Shalom FIU, he noticed that Jewish students weren’t well represented. 

“It’s sad but then again our community is used to being ignored,” he said. “I think the religious rights of all people should be respected and protected.”

The online graduation is saddening. No matter who you are, missing out on a stepping stone in life is harsh. 

When COVID-19 is over, students will return to their grand ceremonies, but will Jewish students be allowed that same privilege? 

It is a time for everyone to be sensitive towards the fact that this is something that orthodox Jewish students have been facing—and no one has done anything about it.

Featured image by FIU Flickr.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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